It’s not that I’m scared to fly. I’m just worried the plane will crash while I’m on it.
It was just a thought I had when my husband, daughter, and I started our Florida vacation by flying from Milwaukee to Pensacola with a 2.5 hour layover in Hot-lanta. That was bad enough. The fact that we had to drive from Rockford to the Milwaukee airport, park, shuttle to airport, board, deplane, layover, board, deplane, then rent a car and finish the drive to our destination was what made it a little more challenging. By challenging I mean we were tired, cranky, and hungry. We were barely recognizable by the time we got to Grayton Beach, Florida.
After just one spectacular, sunny day on the beach, however, we forgot all about the previous day’s travel difficulties. I forgot how much I hate to fly. After a week of the beach (our friend Captain Morgan was there!) the trip down seemed like a bad dream. A blurry fog. A mere memory!
Until the night before we have to leave, when we realize it’s our last sleep in this beautiful beach house and worse, that the very next day we have to repeat last week’s travel nightmare in order to get home. That’s ok, though, because the flights on the way down were lovely, floaty things. I almost wasn’t scared.
The next day, on the way back home, our second flight is the Atlanta to Milwaukee part. Despite pleading with the gate agent she can’t seat us all together, so my husband is back several rows. I usually
hold his hand while we fly. It’s 10:12
p.m. and I hope to sleep during the flight, but whee! There’s a lightning storm our pilot tries unsuccessfully
to avoid and I feel like I’m in a bouncy house.
My stomach is in knots. I shoot
six drinks in succession but remain stone cold sober.
It was then for some odd reason it feels as if the pilot has hit the brakes. Hard. To say it is unsettling is an understatement, as I would hope there wouldn’t be any red lights or stop signs this high up. We lurch forward in our seats.
Daughter latches on to my arm and says, “Why does it feel like the plane’s slowing down?”
I tell her, “Oh, that’s normal.” She’s unconvinced and gives me the side eye. I curl my lips up in my best recollection of what a reassuring smile looks like but I’m afraid it’s more of a grimace.
After our plane endures another severe shaking, she says, “Are you sure that’s normal?”
I am in a cold sweat but still have the presence of mind to lie to my child. “Yes, of course.” It’s nowhere near normal, as far as I’m concerned. And I’m not sure why we slow down in midair either. I am convinced we’ve been hit by lightning and we’re going down. All I can think about is our drink cart hasn’t even come with the microscopic bags of pretzels and a meager cup of juice, so I’m going to die on an empty stomach…something I vowed I’d never do. I’m freaking out a little bit. Like, “there’s someone on the wing” freaking out.
However, I school my features into confident, soothing mom mode and tell her as long as the flight attendants aren’t worried, we don’t have to be worried either.
It was at that point the pilot makes an announcement over the crackling loudspeaker. “This is your captain speaking. The plane is going down. Please find your seats and buckle up because stuff just got real.”
My husband tells me later that what he actually said was, “Flight personnel, please find your seats because we’re about to encounter some turbulence.” Between you and me, he never hears things right.
My daughter and I both watch, horrified, as the flight attendant hurtles past us, drink cart rattling, rushing to secure the cart and fasten her seat belt. This isn’t just turbulence. Our plane ride has turned into a hayrack ride on a country road of potholes.
I don’t even want to look at my daughter. I’ve let her down. I finally sneak a peek at her and—you know how horses look when they get scared? You only see the whites of their gigantic eyes, their sides are heaving, their nostrils flaring? Then you have a pretty clear picture of what my daughter’s face looked like at that moment. The Xanax she has washed down with rum does not seem to be helping.
|This is where I would normally say, "Like this, except not this bad." Except it's pretty close to what I actually saw.|
But what an exciting ten minutes followed! I believe that if the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for speed-reciting the Lord’s Prayer, I’d be the record holder. Through the buzzing in my ears I heard someone swearing like a sailor then realize it’s me. My daughter’s fingernails leave gouges in my arm.
Finally, the plane stops rattling. She releases her death grip and pretends to read a book. I am faking sleep and watch her turn pages with shaky hands.
My nerve endings are completely shot.
At last we land safely. I have obviously kept the plane up in the air single handedly with my prayers, although the ungrateful rabble we flew with doesn’t realize it. They are rushing the door to leave like there’s a Black Friday sale on TVs at Walmart and not waiting their turn so that I, their champion plane-keeper-upper, might depart the plane. I am petulant and crabby, naturally. If Bruce Willis had saved their plane, they’d be letting him off first.
Finally, after what feels like forever, my exhausted family is able to get off the plane, collect our luggage and we’re on our way back home. None of us are looking forward to the two hour drive home but we are on the ground and quite frankly, right now there’s nowhere I’d rather be.